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Career opportunities for linguists

"What kind of career can I have with a degree in linguistics?" is a question that students often ask. While there are definitely hard/technical skills specific to the domain of linguistics that you will acquire in your studies, there are also many general, transferable skills that you will also gain, which can be used in a wide range of professions. Linguistics has connections to the hard sciences, social sciences, and humanities, so a degree in linguistics is versatile and broadly applicable, and positions you well for employment in the rapidly changing career environment of today.

Your knowledge about how languages work (how speakers acquire and use language, how speakers interpret the meaning and intention of utterances and written language, how language varies among different groups of speakers, how languages change, etc.) as well as specific technical skills used in linguistic research are relevant for many professions. More broadly speaking, linguistics coursework and research requires you to develop analytical reasoning and critical thinking skills and the ability to express complex ideas clearly and accurately. A deep understanding of the different aspects of human language can make you a better communicator in general, both in interpersonal situations and in writing.

Fields where you can apply your linguistic training include:

  • industry (e.g., speech recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, user experience research, and computer-mediated language learning)
  • government (the Foreign Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense, and the Department of Education all hire linguists; similar opportunities may exist at the state level)
  • education (teaching [including teaching English as a second language], development of instructional materials, educational research)
  • advertising, branding, and marketing
  • editing, publishing, and technical writing
  • translating and interpreting
  • linguistic consulting for professions such as medicine or law.

In a recent study of career outcomes for linguists, interview participants said that they made use of their linguistic training in jobs that ranged from communications consultant to exhibition content manager to data analyst to standards engineer. Out of 51 people interviewed, there were 49 distinct job titles reported. The range of possible careers is therefore much broader than the fields listed above.

Many students also go on to graduate and professional degree programs before entering the job market. In addition to graduate study in linguistics, your undergraduate major can help prepare you for graduate and professional programs in related fields, such as cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, computer science, anthropology, philosophy, law, communication sciences and disorders, education, English, or other languages.

The UGA Career Center provides info on employment and graduate school placements for recent Linguistics graduates and many other useful resources for your job search. Follow the link below for more information.

UGA Career Center: Linguistics

Professional paths for linguists (LSA video)


More info on careers

Also: be sure to check out the Linguistics Careercast, which is a podcast that interviews linguists working outside academia.

Support Linguistics at UGA

Your donations to the Department of Linguistics will support research and travel opportunities for students and faculty and other initiatives to enhance students' education in linguistics. Please consider joining other friends and alumni who have shown their support by making a gift to our fund. We greatly appreciate your contributions to the success of our programs!